Lifestyle

S M Ong: Am I a cyberbully?

Media Literacy Council goes 'WHOOPS!'

I think I may be a cyberbully.

At least that's what the Media Literacy Council (MLC) has led me to believe.

Last Thursday, MLC posted on Facebook a series of illustrations for parents under the heading "Signs your child is a cyberbully".

The first sign is "He/she quickly switches screens or closes programs when you walk by".

Oh, no. That's what I do whenever my wife walks by while I'm watching a Red Velvet video.

The second sign is "Laughs excessively while using the computer".

Oh, no. That's what I do sometimes during a Red Velvet video.

The third sign is "Get unusually upset if he/she cannot use the computer".

Oh, no. That's what happens to me when my wife bans me from using the computer because I watch too many Red Velvet videos.

I'm a cyberbully!

But the council's Facebook post was criticised for being "simplistic" and "disconnected from internet culture".

One commenter wrote: "For something called the media literacy council you guys aren't very literate in new media hahaha. Confirm run by old uncles and aunties who pretend that they understand youths but don't. Better ask ah boy or ah girl to teach you how to book on the facebooks and gram on the instagrams."

PUBLIC EDUCATION

A little history. The MLC was formed in 2012 by the Government to "actively develop public education programmes that will help the public navigate media, especially the Internet, safely and responsibly".

But last week, instead of MLC educating the public about the Internet, it seemed the public was educating the MLC.

In response to the comments, the senior citizens of the council posted a mea culpa of sorts on Friday: "WHOOPS! We've heard you. Our post meant to give generic examples to describe a cyber-bully, but we should have probably included some specific descriptions in the post. We'll follow up on this asap!"

That wasn't well received either.

Someone commented: "Still reads like someone doesn't want to fully admit how incorrect the post was, and tries to make it a 'joke' to save face."

But more importantly, what I want to know is - am I a cyberbully or not?

Confession: The MLC post is not the only reason I think I may be a cyberbully.

Anyone remember Mr Cuthbert Syn? Probably not.

Three years ago, he became famous (or infamous) after a picture of him in a Reserved seat on the train went viral. Asked to give up his seat to a woman carrying a baby, he refused and reportedly said: "It's my choice and I'm tired after work."

He later explained to The Straits Times: "I'm usually a shy person who will give up his seat to those in need. But I had worked late and was feeling tired and unwell last night."

Vilified online, Mr Syn was also mocked for his weight and receding hairline.

So I wrote an article that said it was wrong to fat-shame and bald-shame the man.

That was in 2015.

Last year, I was taken aback to see an e-mail in my inbox with the subject line: "Letter of Demand - To remove article on website".

It was from Mr Syn.

He wrote: "I would want the article to be removed immediately. As this has caused me a lot of distress since 2015, especially when I am unwell due to a heart disease. Under the Protection of Harassment Act (POHA), your article is an offence. Legal action will be taken if the article is not removed."

Wait, what?

In the first place, it had been two years since he went viral. No one is interested in reading about him any more. He was old news.

Second, my article was actually defending him.

Third, even though my article can no longer be found online, other articles about him abound on the web, including The Straits Times report I mentioned earlier.

Finally, why bring up the Protection from (not "of") Harassment Act? The 2014 law was designed to make cyberbullying a criminal offence.

Was I cyberbullying Mr Syn?

Or was he the one cyberbullying me by threatening legal action?

MLC is no help.

I wish my wife would let me use the computer so that I can Google for more information and definitely not watch any more Red Velvet videos.

Fortunately, I still have my iPhone. Irene is so pretty, even on the smaller screen.

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